recently a fertility clinic in the United States made news for not only selling human sperm and eggs, but human embryos as well. While many re-
sponded with disdain, National Post columnist Marni
Soupcoff questioned the validity of the objections.
Embryo donation does occur in Canada. Couples who
undergo in vitro fertilization often have nine eggs fertilized
and then have three implanted. If pregnancy does not re-
sult, the next three are implanted. A successful pregnancy
often leaves “spare” embryos left over.
What to do with them is a technologically created moral
dilemma. Some are then made available to other couples.
And there’s at least one Christian organization in Canada that,
out of its respect for human life, facilitates embryo adoption.
When regulations on such areas were being shaped, the
EFC argued for the importance of the sanctity of human life
and our society’s affirmation of the dignity of human life.
These principles underlie current laws that prevent
buying and selling human eggs, sperm and embryos, and
ban payment to mothers who carry someone else’s child.
Commercialization of embryos might assist those want-
ing to be parents. But is that what we want as a society?
Protecting human life often requires extra care for the
vulnerable, as our child care institutions show. For ex-
ample, in fostering and adoption it’s not the parental inter-
ests that are primary. We want to find homes for waiting
children, not to find children for wanting parents.
Similarly Canada has long banned slavery, and recent-
ly we even strengthened our laws to protect children and
youth from being trafficked. Our abhorrence of the exploita-
tion of slavery is shared worldwide, and universal condem-
nation falls on all remaining places where it is still practised.
Another example is the sex trade. In Canada there is
increased lobbying to decriminalize prostitution, including major cases currently before our top courts. Do we as
a society accept that the bodies of others should be bought
for sexual pleasure?
Decriminalizing prostitution, it’s often argued, has
We don’t buy and sell people.
Together for influence, impact and identity
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of
Evangelicals gathered together for influence, impact and identity
in ministry and public witness. Since 1964 the EFC has provided a
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principles in life and society. Visit us at www.theEFC.ca.
worked in European countries. But in fact many there
are pushing to re-establish criminal laws against buying
sex. Such laws have been effective in Sweden and Norway,
supplemented with counselling and retraining programs.
Where human trafficking is tolerated, children are hurt.
Many of the youth being recruited to prostitution, even in
Canada, are kids from group homes and foster homes.
Rejecting the commodification and exploitation of a
human being today is part of a centuries-old battle including Evangelicals who led the charge to abolish slavery in
the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The same abolitionists also worked to prevent the exploitation of child labour. In Toronto it was seeing six-year-olds selling newspapers on the streets that motivated J. J.
Kelso to establish the first Children’s Aid Society in Canada.
Resisting the commercialization and commodification
of human life is a critical expression of our society’s respect
for the dignity of the human being. This respect shapes our
laws governing biotechnology, adoption and slavery.
Such principles also underlie our universal health care
system, our social programs and even our employment laws
– you can hire someone, but you can’t buy them or rent them.
But it takes effort to maintain these principles in a society driven by markets and a consumerist and materialist
ethos that reduces life to transactions.
Soupcoff asks, “How does adding money to the equation
change the dynamic of adopting embryos? How might money
undermine a process that is very much like an adoption?”
Our response should be this. Since we reject buying and
trading infants, we must be consistent and reject buying
and selling eggs, sperm and embryos, and hiring women
to carry children to term.
Soupcoff concludes, “Canadian outrage over treating
embryos as salable goods rather than precious lives seems
particularly strange given that Canadian law currently of-
fers embryos no protection or status whatsoever.”
I agree in part. But a key reason we don’t permit traffick-
ing in human embryos is to acknowledge a certain status,
a valuation that would be undermined by affixing a price.
If we permit commercializing activities that define our
humanity, if we allow some or parts of us to be commodi-fied, we will be offering sacrifices to those commercializing forces we allow to govern so much of our lives.
Let us affirm today, alongside the abolitionists of history, respect for life and the dignity of all, created in the
image of God. FT
bruCe J. CLemen Ger is president of The Evangelical
Fellowship of Canada. Read more of his columns